How to find a qualified acupuncturist: Part Two
You have searched the directories, maybe you even took to Google, and you have found some acupuncturists in your area. Now what? How do you know who you can trust, and who will be a good fit?
1. Education & Training
A common misconception is that acupuncture training is a certification program. Wrong! A degree in acupuncture is now a four year Masters program, which is sometimes condensed into a three year accelerated program.
In Massachusetts, a minimum of 1,905 hours of clinical and didactic acupuncture training is required in order to apply for licensure. One hundred of these hours must be supervised patient care, including diagnosis and treatment. On top of these hours of acupuncture-specific education and training, acupuncturists must complete additional coursework in biology, anatomy, physiology, etc.
2. Licensed Acupuncturist
Please go to a licensed acupuncturist for acupuncture! I know that sounds too obvious to state, but you would be surprised by the number of people who think that they are receiving acupuncture who are not actually being treated by a licensed acupuncturist. Some physical therapists, chiropractors, and even physiatrists are claiming they are doing acupuncture, despite their lack of both training and licensure (the issue of “dry needling” is another whole topic..).
Acupuncture licensure is specific to each individual state. Here in Massachusetts, the Board of Registration in Medicine is in charge of acupuncture licensure. Requirements include the acupuncture training and education described above, passing the appropriate national board examinations (a minimum of three), Clean Needle Technique certification, an undergraduate education (a minimum of 60 semester hours), and science and lab credits (similar to those required for Western medical school).
Simple advice at best, but consider geography and your specific means. How far someone will travel is very individualized- I know individuals who will travel upwards of an hour (each way) to see their acupuncturist, and I also know individuals who will only see a practitioner within a narrow radius of their home or work.
Consider how much time you can allot to travel, parking, etc. on top of the time needed for treatment (likely about one hour). If you have the luxury of time you can have a broader search. If you are already stressing about scheduling in acupuncture to take care of yourself, I urge you to acknowledge this. Arriving rushed, stressed, or late to your acupuncture appointment does not lend to an optimal healing environment and make detract from your treatment.
All acupuncturists are initially trained as generalists- that means that we’re taught an entire medical system, in which each symptom, sign, and condition has a place. Many choose to continue practicing as generalists. Others specialize in specific conditions and diseases. They may focus their continuing education on specific topics, or restrict the cases that they see in practice.
5. Connection & Consultation
One last point, which I do believe is very important and often overlooked: Connection. Being able to connect with your acupuncturist will help facilitate a positive healing relationship. This translates to more effective treatments, and decreased recovery time! We don’t always have the luxury to prioritize connection with all of our healthcare providers, so take advantage of this point when you’re choosing your acupuncturist.
It can be difficult to gauge connection by a website or an advertisement, so consider setting up a consultation with the acupuncturist(s) you’re interested in. Many acupuncturists understand the hesitation/curiosity/etc. involved in seeing a new acupuncturist, and offer complimentary consultations. This gives you the chance to meet in person, review your health history, set expectations, receive a treatment plan, get comfortable in their treatment space, and ask any questions. A perfect opportunity to see if they are the right fit!